Harriet Atwood Silver, the daughter of Arad Silver and Emely Sophia Nichols, was born July 22, 1818 in Bloomfield, Vermont. The family consisted of ten children, six boys and four girls: Samuel Newel, Harriett Atwood, William Riley, Charles Bingham, Norris Wesley, Mary Adeline, Oscar Hayes, Albert Allen, Samantha Johnson, and Louisa Augusta.
When Harriet was a young girl she left her home and found work in the weaving mills of Lowell, Massachusetts. She became very efficient in this trade. It was in Lowell, in the year 1842, Harriet heard the gospel and became interested in it. In a short time, she, along with her three girl friends, were converted to its truthfulness and were baptized. They immediately made preparations to go west, to the gathering place of the saints. Her three friends sailed from New York on the ship "Brooklyn," with Samuel Brannon, landed in San Francisco, and later came to Utah. Harriet left her home alone, and joined the saints in Nauvoo. She shared in the persecutions of the saints, and was driven with the body of the Church, from their homes. In February she crossed the Mississippi River on the ice, and traveled with the Saints to Winter Quarters.
NOTE: In many of the histories written about Harriet it says that her mother, Emely Sophia, worked in the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. In one such history, "The Charles Oscar Dunn, "Clan," it states, "The mother, besides caring for her home and family, worked in a factory at Lowell, Massachusetts and learned the weaver's trade." It would have been impossible for Sophia to do this. First of all, the distance. Bloomfield is in the northern part of Vermont, almost to the Canadian border. Massachusetts is below Vermont. Lowell is about three hundred miles from Bloomfield. Even in today's standards that would have been a very long commute. Sophia would have had to move to Lowell to work there. Her husband, Arad, took care of his family. At one time he was the largest taxpayer in Bloomfield. So it doesn't seem that she would have to work outside of her home. In the letter from Albert A. Silver, Jr., (included in this history) he says that it was Harriet that worked in the mill and learned the weaver's trade. I know this the way it was.
Simeon Adams Dunn, a convert to the Church, from the State of New York, was also on his way west at this time, having left Nauvoo in May, 1846, with four little motherless children, the mother having died in Nauvoo. He met Harriet at Winter Quarters, and they were married by President Brigham Young in the fall of 1847. They left Winter Quarters in the spring of 1848, and shared in all the trials and hardships of the westward journey. Their team consisted of one yoke of oxen and one yoke of cows. The cows supplied the family with milk as they traveled.
In the sketch of the life of Aunt Betsy, one of Simeon Adams Dunn daughters left motherless in Nauvoo, written by her at the age of 87 years, she refers to her step mother Harriet, as follows:
"At Winter Quarters, my father met a young lady who had left her home in Vermont to cast her lot with the Mormons, and they were married by Brigham Young. She certainly proved to be a good mother to us, and helped us in the hardships we had to bear.
I remember one night, when we made camp for the night, one of the cows in some way got hold of a poisoned weed, and in the morning we found her dead. Oh, how bad we felt. Dear old Beauty, how we missed her. She was such a pretty cow. I remember her yet. How Father missed her with our load, but she was dead and we had to make the best of it, but we thought and talked of nothing else, for many a day.
After mother came into our family she would take pieces of buffalo hide, put the wooly side in and sew them together and make shoes to protect our feet in walking across the rough plains. She was very handy with a needle. When we would come to a place where buffalos came to drink, we girls would pick the wool that had caught on the willows. Mother would wash and dry it. She had a pair of cards and would make it into yarn and knit stockings for us.
Father and mother made cheese, and brooms and sold them, and they began to prosper. When father was called on a mission to the South Sea Islands, it very hard on mother and the rest of us. I remember I herded cows for 2 years, where Fort Douglas now stands, and received as pay for my work, a calico dress. I thought it was the prettiest dress I had ever seen. Mother made it all by hand, so pretty with little ruffles on it. When the other girls saw me wearing it, they said I was very pretty."
Harriet Atwood Silver was a very industrious woman, and worked hard in connection with her husband. They soon enjoyed a comfortable little home. They remained in Salt Lake until 1850. This is where they lived when Simeon Adams was called on a mission to the South Sea Islands. His health had been poor for almost a year, and the family had no means either for their sustenance or for missionary expenses; but, President Brigham Young promised Simeon A. Dunn that if he would fulfill this call, he would be blessed with health and strength and that his family would not suffer during his absence. He went and performed a splendid mission.
While he was away a second child was born, a little later Harriet took a little orphan boy to raise; so besides herself she had seven children to care for and support during the absence of her husband. This she did by gathering frozen rushes and making bottoms for chairs. She also made brooms from split birch, and sold them, so that she did not have to call on the Church for help.
Her husband came home in 1852. The next year they moved to Brigham City, being pioneers of that city and enduring the hardships of pioneer life. On Sept 12, 1853, her first twins, Evaline Silver and Emmeline Silver were born; on October 13, 1855, her son Charles Oscar was born. On December 31, 1857, she gave birth to another pair of twins, and two days later, January 2, 1858, gave her life.
One of the babies also died, and was buried with her in Brigham City Cemetery. Three months later the saints from northern Utah had to leave their homes and go south to escape Johnston's Army. Simeon Adams Dunn, with his young, and again motherless family, joined the march. They camped at Payson, and while there, the other baby took sick and died. Simeon Adams retraced his steps with this little one and buried it beside it's mother and her other child.
Harriet Atwood Silver Dunn was an ambitious woman, an efficient woman, a loving and kind mother and a real pioneer. According to her daughter Aleen Hunsaker Hansen, her life's motto was, "If you do it unto one of the least of these my children, you do it unto me."
This pioneer mother, brave and true,
Has gone to a far happier home.
Her service, faith and charity,
A rich reward for her will gain.
Her life's work here was well performed,
Now she is busy on that shore,
Among those dear ones who have gone,
Where pain and sorrow are no more.
She's watching for us over there,
Yes, her reward will be complete.
When in one happy family,
Her numerous descendants meet.
by Eva Dunn Snow, 1947
August 19, 1942
To our Cousins, one and all, assembled August 23rd, in parting reception to Harriet C. Silver and Mrs. Albert A. Silver, Jr.
Words utterly fail to express my appreciation of your uniform love and kindness to my daughter Harriet and her mother during these precious days of their visit in Utah.
Please let me thank you one and all for these happy experiences and assure you that they have meant a lot by way of cementing the ties "that bind our hearts in Christian love."
Out of the joys and pleasures of these days there looms up before us the incarnate form of my father's oldest sister, and your grandmother, Harriet Silver Dunn. She had left her home in Bloomfield, Vermont, and found work in the Weaving mills of Lowell, Massachusetts.
From there she crossed the Eastern portion of our country to Nauvoo, Illinois where she married Simeon Adams Dunn, January 3, 1847. (They actually met and married in Winter Quarters.) They immediately started westward in a covered wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen, with **a pair of cows bringing up the rear. The hardships are privations of this pioneer band, made up of adults and five step children, included the crossing of treacherous rivers, the negotiations with Indians and buffalo and many other things calling for stout hearts, clear heads and a kind of determination that knows no defeat.
The story of how this brave, stout hearted woman supported her family without aid from the Church, by making use of her trade as a weaver, while her husband was on a mission to the South Sea Islands, simply magnifies her character.
Though dead, she yet lives and Harriet Silver Dunn will continue to live in the hearts and lives of unborn generations.
I must not weary you. Good bye and God bless you.
From your loving cousin
Albert A. Silver, Jr.
**NOTE: Statements made by others who contributed to this history indicated that Simeon Adams Dunn had a "yoke" of cows as well as a yoke of oxen. When one cow died they experienced a great loss because their wagon was heavy. Apparently, until one died, the cows were also yoked and assisted in pulling the wagon.